Until he encountered "A.D," it seemed as if Dr.Alois Alzeimer's career would be rather nondescript. After attending four universities in Germany and writing his doctoral dissertation on ear wax, Alois finally graduated from medical school, opting to specialize in the growing field of psychiatry. He spent his first few years in the profession treating women in a mental asylum colloquially known as "Irrenschloss," or "castle of the insane." But in 1901, the 37-year-old physician began treating a patient who showed some strange behavior problems, along with an absence of short-term memory. The patient was 51-year-old Auguste Deter. Although Dr.Alzheimer had seen many women in the throes of severe mental illness, Ms.Deter nonetheless stood out from the rest because of the sheer intensity of her mental symptoms. Deter had led a previously normal life, having been married and raised a daughter. But as she approached middle age, she began to display a bizarre set of symptoms, such as memory loss, delusions, and even slipping into a state of semi-conscientiousness known as a "vegetative state." She couldn't sleep, would drag sheets around the house, and would often start screaming for no apparent reason. Eventually, her husband couldn't deal with it anymore and put her in the asylum, where she met Dr.Alzheimer on November 25, 1901. Alzheimer asked her many questions then asked her to write down her name. He then asked her if she remembered the questions he had asked, to which she replied, "Ich hab mich verloren," which means, "I have lost myself." Deter had no sense of time or place, nor could she remember the details of her life. She became increasingly incoherent. She was unable to wander around the hospital ward because she would attack other patients with no provocation. What particularly intrigued Dr.Alzheimer was that, while he had seen similar symptoms in older women, usually in their 70s and beyond, this was the first time he had noted such severe mental deficits in a middle-aged woman. Alzheimer became obsessed with her case and followed it closely.
Auguste Deter died in 1906, and when he learned of her death, Alzheimer requested that her complete medical records be sent to him,along with her brain. With the cooperation of two Italian physician colleagues, he used special staining techniques to examine slices of Deter's brain. What he identified for the first time was the presence of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. He announced his findings in a speech shortly afterward. In 1911, Alzheimer's colleague, Dr.Emil Kraepelin, considered the father of modern psychiatry, wrote about the disease that Alzheimer had identified and referred to it as "Alzheimer's disease." Alzheimer himself never died from the disease, but rather succumbed to heart failure at . . .